Freshman State Rep. Mark Shirey (R-Mobile) says he believes State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris survived the scrutiny of the Alabama Legislature because of the lobby working under the Medical Association of the State of Alabama (MASA) banner in Montgomery this session.

During an interview with Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5, Shirey, a practicing optometrist, said he did not understand why an effort led by State Sen. Sam Givhan (R-Huntsville) to change how Alabama's state health officer was chosen did not get more traction.

He chalked it up to MASA's intervention and noted the organization had been an obstacle in other areas, as well.

"I absolutely believe there's something to be done there," he said. "Why a state association, a private association, is electing a state health officer, and that is not under the purview of the Governor's office, I don't understand. I don't understand why that bill didn't get more traction or why they tried to gut it in the Senate. It doesn't make sense to me. The only thing I can think of is the state medical association has a very strong lobby, and that's sad to say."

"If you think about it, the state medical association, MASA, I guess do control health care, but they're not the only providers of health care," Shirey said. "I'm an optometrist. We butt heads with MASA all the time over scope issues. There are pharmacists who have issues, occupational therapists, chiropractors — all these other people provide health care in the state of Alabama. They come up and complain we don't have enough doctors. Then they won't allow the people who have the knowledge, who have the education, have the training to provide medicine to the state. It's a turf battle. I understand that, but no, I don't believe we should defer to MASA for everything."

Jeff Poor is the editor in chief of 1819 News and host of "The Jeff Poor Show," heard Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-noon on Mobile's FM Talk 106.5. To connect or comment, email or follow him on Twitter @jeff_poor.

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